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RV podcast #209: America’s National Parks in Crisis

| Updated Sep 12, 2018

America’s National Parks are in crisis. A growing near $12 billion backlog of desperately needed repairs and maintenance is seriously affecting America's National Parks. Inadequate federal campgrounds and deteriorating or closed roads, bridges and facilities negatively impact visitor experiences and RVers in particular. In our interview of the week, we talk to Chris Bornemann, Senior Manager of Government Affairs for the RV Industry Association, who will tell us what we can do to help persuade Congress to restore our parks.

Plus, your questions, comments, lots of RV news and Tips and a great off-the-beaten-path report from the Burketts.


Show Notes for Episode #209 Sept. 12.2018 of Roadtreking – The RV Podcast:

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”2:14″]

RV podcast #209: America’s National Parks in Crisis 1


As this episode comes your way, we’re way up north at Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada, attending one of our Roadtreking boondocking gatherings with a couple dozen fellow RVers. We’re enjoying the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, hiking, taking a lot of pictures and enjoying some early fall weather. Though it’s supposed to warm up later in the week up here, the nighttime temperatures have been in the mid 40’s.


And Bo, our Norwegian Elkhound, loves it. He’s grown weary of the heat and humidity of the past few months as we’ve traveled through the southern US and the Gulf Coast. This Ontario weather is much more to his liking.


This is a very busy week for us. We have to leave here and on Thursday start traveling to Hershey, PA and America’s Largest RV show there. We always have a ball at this show. More than 45 RV manufacturers will be displaying over 1,300 RVs here and there are over 100 other companies that make RV accessories and provide RV related services. We will be shooting videos and we have two live broadcasts we plan to do on our Facebook Roadtreking Page.


We will be doing two Facebook Live broadcasts from the Hershey show next weekend. The frst will be on Friday at 3:30 PM from the Rad Power Bikes display.  The second will be Saturday at 3 PM from the Roadtrek. Hymer display.  Both will be on our Roadtreking Facebook Page  Also, we’ll be doing meet at greet appearances at the Roadtrek and Hymer display Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 1 PM. We love meeting you and invite you to come by if you are attending the show. If not, then tune in to our Live reports on the Facebook Page for a look at what we’re discovering. Again, that first live report is Saturday at 3 PM. The second will be on Sunday at 3PM, when we’ll go live from the show from the Rad Power Bikes display.


This has also been an exciting week for us as Mike is now well underway on his new healthy living program. If you heard Episode 208 last week, you learned why the RV Lifestyle and all the sitting while driving and eating at those great RV gathering pot lucks can really put on the pounds. Anyway, Mike entered the program that is run by the weight loss expert he interviewed last week and we’ve been following it faithfully. So far so good, right?


Oh yeah… very right. We update my progress on this plan every Sunday night on our YouTube Live broadcast on our RV Lifestyle Channel there. So if you want the details, make sure you tune in Sunday night. But so far, in the first week, I’ve lost several pounds and because this is a simple plan that basically cuts out sugars and starches – carbohydrates – we’re eating healthy, organic, whole foods as much as possible, something we can easily prepare on the road.  Anyway, go to our YouTube Channel at and you can see the most recent update. But I can report there’s definitely less of me this week than there was last week!

So, that’s what we’ve been up to. We’re having a ball meeting others, traveling in our RV and seeing North America.

This part of the program is brought to you Overnight RV Parking, a subscription service that provides details for over 12,000 free or nearly free RV overnight parking locations. And by AllStays Pro, the best tool for RVers who prefer computers or tablets and their bigger screens. AllStays Pro is is updated daily.  If you join through the links here, both programs will offer you significant discounts.

RV NEWS OF THE WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”10:55″]


Mercedes Opens New Factory in U.S. to Build Sprinter Vans

Mercedes-Benz opened a new factory in North Charleston, S.C., where it will build the latest generation Sprinter van. Sprinter vans have become the most popular chassis for Class B RVs built by the RV manufacturers and, over the past year or so, the demand has been so great that Mercedes was not able to keep up. This new plant will help with that. And it will help Mercedes,too.  Building cargo vans in the U.S. allows Mercedes to avoid a 25 percent tariff on imported commercial vehicles and trucks. At the plant opening, the German automaker said that one of its first big orders was a deal to make 20,000 Amazon-branded Sprinter vans for the online retailer’s new Delivery Service Partner program. The agreement calls for Mercedes to deliver the vans by the end of next year. The new plant is an expansion of a previous facility that assembled van kits imported from Germany. It includes two new buildings, a 450,000-square-foot paint shop and a body shop of more than 500,000 square feet. A 1.2-mile conveyor connects the two facilities. Mercedes-Benz spent $500 million on the factory expansion.The plant will have the capacity to employ 1,300 workers to build an estimated 40,000 vans annually. The human workers are supported by 182 robots. About half the vans sold in the U.S. have commercial uses. Another 30 percent are built for the recreational vehicle trade and about 20 percent are sold as passenger shuttles and for other use. A key change for the North American market is the introduction of a gasoline engine option that will be available next year.

RV becomes wedged under drive in restaurant roof

Here’s a story that is a warning to all of us in RVs to check for overhead obstructions when making turns. A recreational vehicle attempted to go through the opposite end of a Boston Market’s drive-through in Santa Clarita Valley, CA and damaged not only the RV but the building when it became wedged under the roof overhang. Sheriff’s deputies said the driver was apparently trying to turn around and went through the drive-in lane without noticing that overhang. Ouch! The story doesn’t say what sized RV it was.


Teen falls to death at Yosemite when trying to take a selfie

Here’s another warning story, very sad. An 18-year-old hiker died last Wednesday after losing his balance and slipping off a cliff at Yosemite National Park while trying to take a selfie. It happened at the edge of Nevada Fall at the park. It was over 800 feet to the bottom. We’ve seen hikers try to take selfies like that in dangerous places many times. No photo is worth taking such a chance.


HBO to air new comedy show called Camping

OK, rounding out our news of the week… something a little lighter. HBO has a new original series that will start next month called Camping. It stars Jennifer Garner as an uptight, Instagram-obsessed mom who plans a camping trip for her husband to celebrate his 45th birthday with a group of friends. Things start to go sideways almost immediately and from looking at the trailer, it appears there are many funny things that any camper can relate to. The show premieres Sunday October 14

This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes ,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping  To see our Rad Power Bikes in action, just click here. Visit WWW.RADPOWERBIKES.COM

RV QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”18:33″]

Questions this week are about:

  • The advantages of nitrogen vs air in RV tires

Proponents of nitrogen-filled tires say that inconsistent and under-inflation is minimized by filling tires with nitrogen because air leaks from tires three to four times faster than nitrogen does. Regular RV tires can be filled with nitrogen, so there are no ‘special' tires to purchase.

The best place to find nitrogen is at large retailers with tire departments or at tire stores. You can locate places in the United States and Canada that fill tires with nitrogen with a locater tool at ( If your tire pressure is low and you can't find a place to get nitrogen near you, it's safe and non-problematic to top off the tire pressure with air. When you get to the next available nitrogen or get home, you can have the tires purged of air and refilled with nitrogen.

  • Crosswinds in September across South Dakota for someone towing a long travel trailer

We have made this trip lots of times in our Class B Roadtrek campervan, traveling I 90 east to west and west to east. And South Dakota is a long stretch of that Interstate, measuring 410 miles from Minnesota to Montana and almost all of it across wide open prairie. Crosswinds are certainly a factor there because there no trees or structures to break the wind. The interstate is closed several times a year because of serious crosswinds. Semitrucks get blown over from time to time. The winds are strongest in the winter and spring but can be present anytime. You should also know that the speed limit on I90 there is 80 miles an hour. So if you’re pulling a trailer you will surely be traveling less than that so be siue and stay in the right lane and know that, besides battling those crosswinds, there may be some buffeting going on as you are passed by cars. By the way, I should note that 80 miles an hour as the limit means 80 miles an hour. The State Troopers there give no wiggle room. They will stop and ticket you for exceeding that by even a couple of miles an hour. That said, we love South Dakota and I-90. We have a video on our Top 5 Places to Stop for sightseeing  while traveling I 90 in South Dakota. Here’s a link to it –

This part of the podcast is sponsored by Steinbring Motorcoach, Roadtrek’s newest dealer and a third generation family business in Minnesota’s beautiful Chain of Lakes region built on quality motorhomes and excellent pricing and service.

RV PODCAST INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”27:47″]

America’s National Parks are in crisis.

In our interview of the week, we talk to Chris Bornemann, Senior Manager of Government Affairs for the RV Industry Association, about the growing backlog of desperately needed repairs and maintenance affecting America's National Parks. Inadequate federal campgrounds and deteriorating or closed roads, bridges and facilities negatively impact visitor experiences and RVers in particular.

At a time when the RV industry is growing at record levels, RV overnight stays at National Parks have been declining from over 4.5 million overnights in the early 1980s to only 2.5 million overnight stays in 2016 due to outdated Eisenhower-era infrastructure, deferred maintenance needs and limited RV camping availability. As outdoor recreation and RV camping on our public lands continues to grow in popularity, unfortunately maintenance and infrastructure funding has not kept up.

In this interview, you'll learn what you can do about it and how you can help let Congress know you want to restore our parks.

The website Chris speaks of is


Here’s a video version of our interview:


Here’s a full transcript:

Mike Wendland:           Well, joining us right now from Sedona, Arizona at the National State Park Director's Conference there is Chris Bornemann from the RV Industry Association. Chris, thank you for making some time. Wow. You got a beautiful background there, those red rocks of Sedona. We all love those.

Chris Bornemann:         You can't beat this. I got the best office today.

Mike Wendland:           You do. Chris, we're talking about national parks and this backlog of almost $12 billion. Why should the typically RVer be concerned about this? I mean we all love our national parks, but 12 billion bucks? Help us understand why we have a stake in this too.

Chris Bornemann:         Absolutely, Mike. Right now it's almost $12 billion just at the National Park Service alone. It's closer to $16 billion within all of the Department of Interior assets. At a time when the RV industry is growing at record levels and RV overnight stays at the National Park Service has been declining from over four million overnights in the early 1980s to only 2.5 million overnights in 2017 due to outdated infrastructure, deferred maintenance needs, and limited RV camping ability.

To really chip away at this backlog maintenance is extremely important to our industry especially because recent research shows that 98% of all RVers purchase their RVs to go camping at some point and this inadequate and outdated federal camp grounds, water systems and utilities really reduce visitation and enjoyment for RVers. Deteriorating roads, bridges and camp grounds, it really negatively impacts the RV experience.

Mike Wendland:           Let's talk just a little bit. One of the things you just said that I want to just draw on and unpack a little bit more is we all know how crowded our national parks are. They are at record levels of attendance, but the number of people camping there you say the study show is actually declining?

Chris Bornemann:         At a time when the industry is booming, we're having year over year record levels and shipments from manufacturer to dealer. Private campgrounds are posting double digit growth. State parks are posting huge growth. Within the National Park System unfortunately, we're seeing a decline over the last 30-40 years or so just due to inadequate maintenance and the deferred maintenance backlog just really increasing. Unfortunately, the National Park Service understands it. They get it. They're great partners of ours. They just don't have the funds to fix it.

Mike Wendland:           When we talk about deferred maintenance, what are we talking about? What kind of issues are there affecting the parks that the average RVer will notice when they're out there? Obviously they're noticing something because they can't get in those campgrounds or they're staying away from them, but what kind of things are deferred maintenance?

Chris Bornemann:         Absolutely. I mean the most visible are going to be your roads, your bridges, your tunnels. Obviously those are important to RVers to be able to go in and access these iconic lands. The campground infrastructure is outdated, bath houses. A lot of the National Park Service campground infrastructure was built back in the Eisenhower era and it just hasn't been kept up to date. It's not modernized. You're not going to find too many electrical hookups.

Luckily some of the National Park Service campgrounds are now reaching out and really embracing partnerships and concessionaire services to come on and have private industry come in and work with the National Park Service to run these campgrounds and invest some serious capital for a small return on investment and hoping to get a 20 year lease from the National Park Service, but in no way is the National Park Service selling off the lands or anything like that. This is a strict agreement, a contract between these concessionaire partnerships and the National Park Service. There's a lot of restrictions that are on the concessionaires too, so it's not a free for all.

They're not putting a water slide in the Grand Canyon or anything like that. They're just coming in and they're running the parks efficiently, investing some money in updating that campground infrastructure amongst lodging, food service and some other amenities and facilities that you likely see in a lot of National Park Service lands.

Mike Wendland:           Where's the problem here? The buck stops I guess with Congress, right? That's what the RV Industry Association is urging the industry to do to start telling their representatives in Congress, all the individuals, the RV users, and of course the industry, this is a serious issue. It's an economic concern, isn't it, for the whole country?

Chris Bornemann:         Absolutely. Right now the RV industry has an economic impact of $50 billion. A recent BA study came out and showed that the outdoor recreation industry has an impact of $673 billion and 2% of the GDP. This is a major powerhouse industry. Congress must address the $12 billion backlog maintenance of the National Park Service lands and the $16 billion within DOI. Luckily we have some great champions in Congress right now. In the Senate, they've introduced the Restore Our Parks Act Senate Bill 3172 and in the House, they've introduced the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands ACT H.R. 6510.

Pretty much these pieces of legislation are identical, except for the House Bill, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, will not only include the National Park Service, it will also include US Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Education School, and maintenance backlog as well, while the Senate version would include just the National Park Service.

Mike Wendland:           These bills are partisan. I mean all you have to do is look at the news tonight and we can see how divided our Congress is politically, but these bills have widespread bipartisan support. Where is the reluctance to this? Why are we having such an issue getting something that seems to critical to the economy and to the American public? Where's the problem?

Chris Bornemann:         Sure. We're talking about some major funding here. Congress has a lot on their plate. I am excited to say, as you mentioned, that this is bipartisan legislation. It has the support of the administration. There's about over a hundred congressmen and women that have cosponsored the House Bill, and there are about 30 senators that have cosponsored the Senate Bill. Secretary Zinke from the Department of Interior and his leadership staff at the National Park Service and other federal land agencies are very supportive of this legislation.

We're doing everything we can from the RV industry and from the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, which is a newly formed coalition of about 20 of the leading outdoor recreation associations, to really get out there, make this issue known and rally the RV community. I know RVers love their parks. They love their campgrounds. This is an issue that's extremely important. Just to give you a quick rundown, I'll give you the high level. I won't give you the D.C. interpretation. These bills look for a five year funding stream for high priority deferred maintenance needs. The fund will have an annual cap of about $1.3 billion a year.

The fund would receive 50% of the available mineral and energy receipts from federal lands and waters, including renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This is the important part, that are not already allocated by law with the other programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which we know is so important especially for the states. Go ahead.

Mike Wendland:           No, keep going. It's just making too much sense, so maybe that's why Congress is …

Chris Bornemann:         No, it makes perfect. It's a great solution. They're developing on federal lands anyway. The federal land should have a cut of this money to use for these high priority deferred maintenance projects. They break it down for the House Bill considering that it's going to include other agencies. They do it by portion of deferred maintenance under DOI. 80% would go to the Park Service, 65% of that would be for non-transportation projects like fixing historical sites, visitor services and facilities, and recreation assets like campgrounds that we all love, and the 35% of it would go towards transportation projects like roads, bridges and tunnels.

Then out of that 100%, 80% goes to National Park, 10% goes to US Fish and Wildlife, 5% goes to BLM, and the other 5% will go to the Indian Education School and maintenance backlog.

Mike Wendland:           Let's get to how we can help. I will put links on the show notes for our podcast in the description for our RV lifestyle channel here on YouTube.

Chris Bornemann:         I think that's it.

Mike Wendland:           We'll put this link. It's right on the RV Industry Association website. Talk about this how we can urge our members of Congress. This doesn't take a lot of time. You can actually fill out a form. Walk through that process a little bit.

Chris Bornemann:         It's an extremely simple process. We have an action alert out right now on That's We're urging the RV community to reach out to their members of Congress and ask for their support and to cosponsor this bill. Anybody that loves RVing, loves camping, loves being outdoors, loves to visit our iconic national parks and all our federal lands and waters, we need your help. Now's the time. We're gaining a lot of traction in Congress right now. We have the support of the administration. Now's the time to reach out and really encourage your members of congress to support this bill. Let's get a hearing. Let's get it out a committee and let's get it done.

Mike Wendland:           Well, I'm going to out again a link to … It's RV Act. There's a form. You fill in your name, your email, your address, and then it walks you right through where you can get directly to your representative in Congress. Well, Chris, we will follow-up with you a little on later in the year to see how this all works. I want to thank you for making some time. I know our audience is just going to zoom right in on what their priorities are. We love our national parks. If we're honest about it, we know that they have fallen on some pretty hard times. This will do a great job in stopping it. Chris Bornemann, thank you so much for joining us from the RV Industry Association.

Chris Bornemann:         Mike, I want to thank you and I want to thank all of your listeners and viewers. Really appreciate your support. Thank you so much. Please visit Thank you.

The interview of the week is brought to you by, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH RV REPORT [spp-timestamp time=”43:35″] 

RV podcast #209: America’s National Parks in Crisis 2
Patti and Tom Burkett

By Tom & Patti Burkett

Recently we spent a weekend at a music festival in New York’s Catskill Mountains.  The couple camped next to us were from Vermont, and we visited about the places we’d been, the places they’d been, and what we like to do when traveling.  Next morning they provided us with a handwritten list of things to do in Vermont, based on our conversation of the previous day.  “But,” said Vicki, “don’t leave New York without going to see the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.”  Come Monday, we rolled out of the festival grounds and set the GPS as she directed.

It was an hour’s drive to the rural location, and as we approached we could see a big peace sign mowed into grassy hillside.  The hill and the mowing job made it unmistakable.  This was Woodstock, site of the 1969 music festival that defined a generation.  The Arts Center stood high on the hill, where once a makeshift kitchen had fed a half million hungry mouths.  Just over the hill was a modern outdoor performance venue, with ample parking, toilets, and food kiosks to service concertgoers.RV podcast #209: America’s National Parks in Crisis 3

The Arts Center building is spacious, cool, and restrained.  It seems to strike a balance with the frenzied energy of the event itself.  The displays are thoughtfully laid out, but don’t hold back when it comes to presenting the outrageous nature of what happened that August weekend.  Hundreds of cars were abandoned in the median of the highway when traffic came to a standstill and folks got out and walked, some more than ten miles, to Yasgur’s farm.  The first attendees arrived before the ticket booths were built and, within hours, the organizers threw open the gates and made it a free festival.

RV podcast #209: America’s National Parks in Crisis 4A New York City commune, the Hog Farm, had been engaged to provide food stands.  Their supplies and capacity were rapidly outstripped.  Area residents pitched in, buying out the entire production of local farms and preparing food in garbage can sized batches to feed the crowd.  Because of the jammed roads, helicopters were required to bring in the performers.  As the rain continued and the need became dire, the Army flew in teams to staff makeshift medical facilities.  Despite the nearly unimaginable challenge of coping with a half million people crowded into the space, the event was remarkably free of violence and mishap.  Two people died and maybe as many as four babies were born.

The museum presents a comprehensive look at the event.  The carefully laid plans of the experienced group of promoters are documented, as is the extensive publicity campaign that brought in a national audience.  All in the era before the internet and in the early years of television.  There is much information about the notable personalities of the movement—civil rights, ecology, women’s empowerment, and social experimentation.  There’s also lots about the music.  A 30 foot high surround screen puts you right in front of the stage for some of the iconic performances.

Best, though, are the first hand accounts of those who were there. Teenage attendees report the challenge of dealing with the mud and standing in line for half a day to use an overflowing port-a-potty.  Local residents describe efforts to deal with the obvious need for food and medical help.  Politicians detail the effect of the event on national policy, and musicians recall the way in which it was a watershed moment in their craft.

Literally in the middle of nowhere, this fascinating and comprehensive museum is worth a the drive down a patchwork of backroads for anyone who wants to know what it was like on that weekend, or who wants to understand the social and political currents that made it happen.  On top of that, much like a visit to Gettysburg or the Edmund Pettis Bridge, standing on the site of the stage and looking out at the grassy hillside felt a bit like standing on hallowed ground.

Off the Beaten Path is brought to you by Harvest Hosts, a membership site that provides truly unique overnight stops at wineries, farms and attractions. To get that 10% discount you must usethe code HHFRIENDS.

RV CALENDAR OF EVENTS [spp-timestamp time=”49:52″]

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2018-09-12

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

One Response to “RV podcast #209: America’s National Parks in Crisis”

September 28, 2018at8:40 pm, Chris said:


I recently listened to the America’s National Parks in Crisis episode and am saddened to hear the “industry expert” say that one solution to the backlog and the issues our parks are facing is to PRIVATIZE our parks. That is the most ridiculous proposal… something that I would expect from Ryan Zinke. Please do not use our parks and the very real and serious issue of deferred maintenance to push someone’s private agenda, which would allow a handful of companies to profit at the expense of the American public.

Thank you.

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